TINY CATAHOULA, where many people still speak only French, was selected for the filming of parts of the Cecil B. DeMille production The Buccaneer in 1937. Catahoula, with its maze of bayous and smaller streams, was where the movie company went to film the scenes of pirates emerging from their wilderness hiding places.The Catahoula men who were selected to be pirates enjoyed the transformation the make-up men from Hollywood did on them, Percy Bourque of Catahoula, who assisted the filmmakers, said. “The make-up and wardrobe group transformed apparently meek and timid folk into the most fierce of buccaneers,” The Weekly Messenger reported.
Pete Guidry of Catahoula, who saw the film after it was completed, said it was fun to see people he knew playing pirates, but he said even then there were some he did not recognize. The make-up men decked out the Catahoula pirates in earrings, scars, wigs, knives and guns.
“They’d go into the woods and somebody would get in a tree like an Indian,” Guidry said. “Another man would pass under the tree in a pirogue, and the man in the tree would jump down, and they’d fight and tip over the pirogue. It was a lot of fun.”
From left, Gaston Courville, Alfred (Bo-Day) Talley,
Alonzo Latiolais and Gill Verret
all residents of Catahoula
Both Bourque and Carroll Fuselier, who acted as interpreters between the French-speaking pirates of Catahoula and the Hollywood people, said the Californians were looking for particular types — men in their 40’s and 50’s with beards and weather-beaten faces. Men who looked like they’d been living in the wilderness.
“It’s remarkable what they could do with the camera,” Fuselier said. “They’d set a camera in a water-tight box so it was level with the water and make the pirogues come toward the camera and circle away and come back again, making it seem as if thousands of pirogues were coming.”
“One of the pirates had a sheep’s horn like the Vikings,” Bourque recalled. “He’d stand way up in a tree and blow that horn and they’d film a hundred pirates coming down out of the swamps. It was beautiful.”